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Please buy me a pony!
There is little doubt that at some time in their lifes most little girls (and quite a few boys) will want a pony!
'My Little Pony' shows ponies as cute cuddly creatures, living in a fariy tale land. But what is the reality of giving in to your child's dream?
If your child has riding lessons, or is lucky enough to ride a friends pony then there will come a time when they will want to have a pony of their own.
Owning a pony will be a huge responsibility as well as very expensive, and must be considered carefully.
Taking on a horse or pony is not something to be done lightly. This is probably the most expensive pet you could buy, and it will cost a lot to keep day on day, week by week. Buying the wrong pony for your child's age and level of riding ability could be very dangerous - your child may get seriously injured by a fall.
Ponies need to be exercised regularly to keep them safe to ride - your child will need to be able to ride 4 times a week or more to keep the pony calm and exercised. More if it is kept stabled during the winter.
If your child is 14 or over then they probably are at the age when they can take responsibility for a horse or pony themself. Any younger and you, as the parent, will need to supervise what is being done both in horse care terms, and in riding.
A bad combination is a pony mad child with parents who don't know anything about ponies. Ponies can weigh around half a ton - they need handling by experienced people to keep them under control.
If you really are considering buying a pony for your child consider the following:
Can your child ride? If not, it is essential that they learn first! Book a series of riding lessons at a local riding school. If they can ride, tell their instructor your plans, and ask for their advice. They may know of a suitable pony for sale, or can give you some ideas. If they advise waiting until your child is a better rider please take their advice.
If you can keep your pony at a livery yard, or better still, a riding school and livery yard combined, your child will have the benefit of other people who can give advice. S/he will also find friends to ride with. If there is a riding school as well so much the better as s/he can continue learning to ride, but on their own pony.
Ponies live for 30 years plus - many are still ridden in the 30s (we know of a riding school pony who is still teaching children to ride at age 39!). You can buy ponies in their teens who are experienced and may well help your child learn to ride. Always buy a pony that your child can control NOW, not one they 'will grow into'.
Horses need new shoes every six weeks. Cost around £65 a time.
Things to consider and Costs
Owning a pony is a way of life. Every weekend will be spent down the yard riding, mucking out, grooming etc. Ponies do seem to make children more confident and outgoing. But they do need to be dedicated - neglecting a pony is cruel.
The cost of buying a pony is nothing in comparison to the cost of upkeep.
You will need to consider:
Ready to Buy a Pony?
If, after having considered all the costs and commitment involved, and you are willing to go ahead and buy your child a pony, our next page will give information on how to go about it.
Space for a pony
A pony is not a house pet, nor can it be kept in garden. If you are thinking of keeping a pony at home it will need around one and a half acres minimum. Ponies do not like their own company, and therefore you should really think of keeping more than one together.
If you are lucky enough to have land and stables near your house you will be able to keep a pony there. But ponies need caring for every day - this means mucking out the stable, poo picking fields, feeding, grooming and exercising. Even a pony kept at grass needs its hooves picked out daily, rugs checked etc. A pony is a big investment in both time and money, and children need to be at least 12 before they can take any of this on for themselves.
If you don't have your own land you will need to find somewhere to keep your pony. This will mean finding a livery yard. The costs will vary greatly depending on the facilities, what type of livery you opt for, and where abouts in the country it is. DIY livery, for example, where you basically rent a stable and use of a field but do all the work yourself if the cheapest, and full livery, where your pony is completely looked after for you, and all you need to do is ride, will be the most expensive. Expect to pay a minium of £15 a week for DIY, up to £120 per week for full livery.
As the costs can vary greatly, do your homework and look around for a livery yard BEFORE your child falls in love with a particular pony!
Cost of Buying a Child's Pony
The initial cost of a pony will depend what you want to do - you may be able to buy a first pony as a basic ride for around £1000. If your child is dreaming of showjumping or showing then the sky is the limit.
A decent saddle and bridle will set you back at least £500, and your pony will need a selection of rugs to keep it warm. A grooming kit is essential, and on top of that there is feed. Native ponies may do well on hay and grass with vitamin supplements, but others will need extra feed as well.
You will need straw or shavings for the stable, and if you keep it at home, wheelbarrows, shovels, brooms etc. to keep everything clean and tidy.
Most horses need their teeth checked by a dentist every six months, and all horses at least once a year. About £40 a time, possibly more if it needs to be sedated.
Saddles should be regularly checked for the fit by a saddler. A badly fitting saddle can damage a pony's back, and if he is in pain he may rear or buck when ridden. Prices will start around £25 rising upwards if the saddle needs reflocking or other work.
Tack and accessories - although your pony may come with a bridle and saddle you can expect to buy more tack! If your child starts showjumping or dressage they may want a specialist saddle, and almost certainly a show bridle. Then there are summer, winter and stable rugs that will need to be bought, and then replaced over time. Boots, numnahs and other accessories will also be needed, along with grooming equipment and shampoos.
Your child will need jodphurs, riding boots, riding jacket (warm for winter, waterproof, flourescent tabbards etc), and if they do go on to enter shows, a show jacket, boots and jodphurs.
Vets and Insurance for Ponies
A horse needs annual vaccinations against 'flu and tetanus and regular worming treatments and should be insured as any injury will mean large vet bills. Despite their size horses are relatively delicate creatures. Their legs can easily be damaged, and they have little natural immunity to bacteria so a small cut can be serious if it's not cleaned quickly. Insurance can vary depending if you've a show pony that you want to cover for loss of use, or just a pony you need the basic cover on. You should budget around £400 a year, and possibly more, even for basic cover.
Owning a pony is a way of life, rather than a simple addition to your household, and you will find your life will have to revolve around it. If you have other children with different hobbies you will need to consider buying a pony carefully. Try and talk to other families who own horses - it is hard to understand the commitment until you buy your first pony.
You can keep a pony at a livery yard, which will make life a little easier, as others will look after your pony. You will probably have to keep it exercised though, and this will mean riding at least 4 times a week. Riding is not a summer activity, ponies still need to be ridden in the cold and wet. A good livery yard should have purpose built schools, which will sometimes be floodlit, which make winter riding a lot easier.